Travel

Week 10: From Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree National Park

There’s something about the quiet repetitiveness of walking. It has an uncanny ability to harden yet soften you at the same time.

It hardens your physical body, your stamina and your resolve, yet it opens up a space for you to live more gently.

To contemplate and marvel.

It’s about simplifying, removing all distractions and disconnecting from things that matter.

bright angel trail

All that matters is the scrunching of the gravel underneath your feet, the quiet rustle of the breeze, the awe inspiring natural surroundings and the funny conversations you can have with your children.

There’s no need to put off time with them for other demands. You can listen, learn more about them and of course answer all their curious questions as best you can.

As Savannah said to me,

“I love hearing the sound of walking over the trail.”

I love how she recognizes the tranquility and value of that already.

Her and Kalyra embraced the Junior Ranger programs this week both in the Grand Canyon and the Joshua Tree National Park. I love how this program engages kids to the experience they have with nature.

Through it they learn all about the flora and fauna, but more importantly how to value the national park and why they should.

grand canyon with kids

It warmed my heart to see them finding a rock to sit and take in their surroundings using their five senses and record what they experienced, to go searching for animal tracks and scat to identify animals, and to wear their Junior Ranger badges with pride long after we left the park.

Sometimes I think it’s a little weird that we spend most of our days on this RV trip walking. One hike after the other.

But, it’s soul satisfying. It’s a meditative practice that we’ve slipped into. Once you get into that rhythm it’s hard to snap back out of it. I don’t want to because within that space of walking, everything is perfect.

Why would you want to invite anything else but that into your life?

joshua tree national park sunset keys view

As we were watching the spectacular sunset in Joshua Tree, I watched my girls soak it up and play at the same time. I”m so thankful they have the opportunity to be with nature in this way. They won’t realize yet the calming influence it has on their life.

I don’t think I was present with a sunset until I was in my twenties. I couldn’t believe the magic of it and since then I’ve seeked out that ritual wherever I can.

It’s insane how we let the chaos of our days distract us from 30 minutes each day to watch that sunset and give thanks for the joy that it brings us.

My girls have been involved in this practice with me since they were born. I hope they continue it.

I hope they forever understand how nature can bring them so much joy and peace and how easy it is to access it within the often utter confusion of life.

I’m grateful I get to spend this time with them and get to know their delightful personalities and strengths on a deeper level. Nature is helping to turn them into fierce warriors wrapped in a gentle softness.

What we did

Grand Canyon snow

As always with this wrap, we’ll give you a brief rundown, with more in-depth posts coming in the future.

In case you have missed it we now have epic guides out on our time in the Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Ranch Park, as well as Texas Hill Country.

Grand Canyon National Park South Rim

Hopi Point sunset Grand Canyon

I was lovely to visit the Grand Canyon in the winter.

Everything was slower and the later sunrise and early sunset times meant we could be more easeful. Hiking at any time of the day worked as it wasn’t baking hot.

Hiking did prove to be difficult as all trails going down into the canyon were covered in ice and snow.

Grand canyon winter Bright Angel Trail

We did go for a little hour adventure down the Bright Angel Trail moving at a slow pace up against the canyon wall to ensure we were safe and protected.

It was great fun and once again the girls enthusiasm to take on the challenge along with their responsibility with it amazed me.

Grand Canyon south rim trail

The South Rim trail was an easy one to walk and enjoy the gorgeous canyon views.

We took advantage of the two scenic drives along the South Rim for stunning views and sunsets. Do not miss the Desert View Drive and the Desert View Watchtower.

The views there were my favorite with the pink and reddish rocks and the bright green Colorado River snaking through the canyon. We even had a rainbow appear!

Desert View Grand Canyon
Desert View Grand Canyon

We loved all the deers lazing about in the snow covered forest on our last day when the snow was really coming down and we had to head out. The deer sure didn’t care and weren’t going anywhere

Joshua Tree National Park

After a two night break at Pirate Cove on the border of Arizona and California we headed to Joshua Tree National Park.

Just like we fell in love with the Saguaro Cactus in Tucson, we fell in love with the Joshua trees here.

joshua tree

What gorgeous trees that can be seen throughout the national park amongst the outcropping of rocks. The scenery is unique and spectacular.

We enjoyed a few short hikes: the Hidden Valley, where cattle rustlers used to hide their stolen cattle, and the Barton Damn.

Barker Dam Joshua Tree National Park
Hidden Valley Trail

The sunset from Key Views was out of this world. I am so glad we decided at last minute to turn back form the really long Pinto Basin Drive to go here instead.

key views Joshua Tree National Park

Following your gut takes you to your heart’s happiness.

If you want more real and personal connection, where we share the real story of how we unplug, how we manage the ups and downs, the sweet the funny, the strange and chaotic, than jump in my Notes from the Road virtual suitcase. Its like receiving letters from an old friend. Just click the following:
SEND THEM MY WAY NOW!

RV and on the Road Lessons Learned

Pirates Cove Resort Needles California (3)
  • If you can help it, don’t leave your slides out during a snowstorm. As we were accessing Goldie while we were staying in the Yavapai Lodge, we had put our slides out and kept them out. What a hassle sweeping off all the snow that had gathered on top of them when it was time to leave. We couldn’t close them until it was all off.
  • It’ just not worth the risk of a potential pipe burst in the travel trailer. Once e saw the temperatures were going to dip into the teens and as low as 5 degrees, we knew it was time to leave the Grand Canyon. We know Goldie can handle a low of 23 but we didn’t want to risk going lower and her breaking. We’d then be screwed without a home and a ruined America Unplugged RV trip. So we bailed out of there there days earlier.
  • The damn fridge is too big for our solar power to work!! I’m so peeved. There was a lovely electrician at Distant Drums RV Resort in Sedona who looked at our inverter that was not working. He let us know when we tried to run it off grid, it broke because of the fridge. So our solar installation was a waste of money. I’m super cranky with Camping World for not telling us this when we bought the Travel trailer and telling us we could use solar power. I’ll be taking this further with them. As it stands we can’t go off grid unless we get a generator. Add it to the list of things to repair. Goldie will be in hospital for a few days I think!
  • I don’t like leaving the van to stay in a hotel.I love the comfort and convenience of Goldie, our travel trailer. If felt quite lost when we escaped to a hotel room for three days in the Grand Canyon. I hated not being able to perform my morning routine properly – that is my own space for meditation, journaling with my tonic tea followed by a bullet proof coffee while the girls sleep in their own room. It’s hard to get them up moving of a morning so it was a late breakfast every morning. Usually we can all do it on our own time AND, eating out three meals a day sucks! I love it as we don’t have to clean anything, but our dietary restrictions make things challenging and it’s too expensive. Give me Goldie any day even with everything that is broken in her!
  • California fuel is expensive!! As soon as we crossed the border from Arizona to California the fuel went from $2.40 to $4.40. We put the car in reverse to fill her up in Arizona! That’s an insane price difference. The crowds have also returned. There are more people in California my entire country, so you bet we’re noticing it.

Where we stayed

Yavapai Lodge

We jumped out of Goldie for three nights to experience Yavapai Lodge. We wanted to see if it was a good option for you when you visit the Grand Canyon! Guess what? It is.

Even though I missed Goldie, I did like our stay at Yavapai Lodge. It’s a basic hotel room but the rooms were clean and comfortable – you won’t be in them much – and the service was excellent.

We really enjoyed the Tavern in the main lobby area and ate there a couple of  nights and watched the Super Bowl. You can sit by the fire and use their lobby Wi-Fi. They don’t have it in the rooms because Grand Canyon – go out and explore it.

It’s also centrally located between the Village and the Visitor Center. You could walk (or bike) to either (maybe a mile each way), but there is a shuttle stop here. TI’s also right next to the biggest general store in the park.

Pirate Cove Resort

Pirate Cove Resort Needles California (2)

Pirates Cove Resort is in the middle of the desert o the Colorado River. It’s spectacular scenery and perfect for those who love off-roading, atv adventures and boating.

Pirates Cove is set up for summer fun with its outdoor adventures and river beach. Sadly, it was too cold for us to really enjoy it and it was very quiet. Although we left on the day an event was starting for the weekend that was going to attract 1200 people!!

This RV resort is massive. Our camp site was isolated and two miles away from the main area where the restaurants etc. are. It was so pretty and peaceful.

I loved watching the sun rise over the river early each morning.  It was fantastic to stay by the Colorado River after seeing the masterpiece it carved up in the Grand Canyon.

The Colorado River is the border between Arizona and Colorado. It’s also the time zone change from Mountain to Pacific. I loved rising early and having an early sunrise and sunset.

Twentynine Palms RV Resort

This is a nice RV resort just outside the Joshua Tree National Park. There are loads of amenities including a really warm indoor pool, sauna and fitness center.

Distance Driven

Travel Costs

Joshua tree national park california

Each week, I include our travel related costs for the week.

I don’t include things like business costs, insurance, and souvenirs etc. That’s so personal that whatever I told you wouldn’t necessarily be true for you and your budget.

The following, apart from perhaps our groceries, will give you a reasonable estimate of costs related to travel.

Vehicle Costs

  • Fuel: $ 163

Accommodation Costs

  • Camping: $ 116 (2 nights @ $58)

Pirate Cove was $189, and Yavapai Lodge approx $360 – Our stay was hosted at both of these.

Attractions

  • Park Fees: $0 
  • Tips: 

We have a National Parks Pass ($80) which gives us unlimited entry to federal lands.

Food

  • Restaurants: $477
  • Coffee: $40 (does include some treats/ hot chocolate for girls)
  • Groceries: $ 150
  • Take out/ snacks: $ 116
  • Alcohol: $30

We eat a mostly whole foods, organic diet, which means our grocery bills are higher than what would be typical.

Don’t forget with eating out costs, tip will be included in the prices below.

RV supplies and living

  • Laundry: $10
  • Firewood: $
  • Propane: $30

Total paid by us: $ 1132

As you can see staying in a hotel really increased our eating out and coffee costs, but really reduced our groceries!!

If you are new to our weekly wrap, our costs each week are usually around $1,000 – $1,300. We’re really trying to stay under $1,000 a week.

Where to next?

Hermits Rest Drive Grand Canyon

Continuing a normal pattern for us, we’re not quite sure where to next!! We’re still figuring it out. It could be Palm Springs. It could be Vegas. It could be LA.

It could be anywhere. We’re due to leave TwentyNine Palms tomorrow so follow along on Instagram to see where we end up!

Videos of the trip coming out soon. Check out our US RV Road Trip Playlist!

 Subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it. We’re now releasing our road trip videos.

You can find our previous months posts here.

More Arizona Travel Tips

Week 10: From Grand Canyon to Joshua Tree National Park
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